Kylie Simpson returns to Ironman Cairns to defend her title

Kylie Simpson will defend her Ironman Cairns title (Picture: Getty Images for Ironman / press release IM)

Defending champion Kylie Simpson (AUS) will headline an international field of top female professional triathletes this Sunday, 16 June at the 2024 Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns. 

There is more on the line than ever before for the professionals at this year’s event, with the IM Asia-Pacific title and a share of the USD $150,000 total event pro prize purse up for grabs, as well as four IM World Championship qualifying slots per gender, and a maximum of 5,000 IM Pro Series™ points to race winners. 

Australia’s Kylie Simpson will line up in Palm Cove on Sunday morning as the athlete to beat in the women’s professional race. Simpson is not only a two-time IM Cairns champion, the Brisbane-based athlete also holds the women’s overall course best (8:40:53), bike course best (4:40:41), and run course best (2:51:37) times, all set during her 2023 victory

“Ironman Cairns is my favourite race and location of all the Ironman races, and most definitely the Pro Series,” said Simpson. “The local community really embrace and welcome the IM athletes to the region. During the race the crowd support from not only spectators, but also locals who happen to be at some of the great bars and restaurants that the run course goes past all get behind the athletes, making the entire run course supported, there is no place that you will not have someone cheering for you. 

“Being the reigning champion most definitely adds more motivation for me. Being the defending champion, the overall course record holder, as well as the bike and run course record holder, it pushes me to see how much faster we can go. Pressure is a privilege, and something that you put on yourself in either a positive or negative way,” she said. 

One of the leading challengers in the women’s race is Sunshine-Coast based athlete, Lotte Wilms. The Dutch athlete, making her IM Cairns debut, is also finely poised in the IM Pro Series, currently sitting 15th in standings after registering a third-place finish at the IM North American Championship Texas in April. 

“My goal for this race is absolutely to get the max amount of points to get me a good place in the overall ranking,” said Wilms. “For me, a successful series would be to end in the top three overall. To do that, mostly it’s important to stay focused all year around, stay healthy and happy to allow for the right amount of training and show up in good spirit at races. It’s exciting with the Ironman Pro Series to see who can manage this the best.” 

Well-known for her strong swim leg, Wilms, along with fellow strong swimmers Lauren Brandon (USA) and Rebecca Clarke (NZL), will know in order to succeed in this race they will have put a lot of time into Kylie Simpson in the water, with the defending champion biking and running her way through the field during her previous victories. 

“It is always hard to predict an Ironman race beforehand. It is nearly a nine-hour race and so many things can happen. My focus is really to control the things I can control in a race. Obviously, I try to stay away from the faster runners as long as I can,” said Wilms. 

Another athlete making her Ironman Cairns debut and certainly one to watch out for is New Zealand’s Hannah Berry.  

“I’ve been wanting to race Cairns for a few years because I’ve heard great things about the event and the course, but just haven’t managed to get here yet for various reasons. So, I’m excited to finally get the chance to race here,” said Berry. 

“I’ve heard the atmosphere is great here, and that the course is a nice one too, especially the bike course. I like a rolling bike to keep it interesting and I usually quite like warm races and this race has those two things, so I’m hoping it ends up being a race that suits me, and I enjoy.” 

Strong across all three disciplines, Berry will be hoping to execute her own race to the best of her abilities which would likely land her at the pointy end of the 226-kilometre race.  

“There’s a real range of athletes on the start line this year, from uber swimmers like Lauren [Brandon] to super runners like Kylie [Simpson] coming from behind. I think it’ll take a really good day across all three to win in this race and there won’t be room for much error. Being smart and sticking to your own race is almost always the best way to get through an Ironman and I think this will be no different,” she said. 

Below is the female professional start list: 

Bib Number First Name Last Name Country Represented 
F1 Kylie Simpson AUS (Australia) 
F3 Lotte Wilms NLD (Netherlands) 
F4 Hannah Berry NZL (New Zealand) 
F5 Lauren Brandon USA (United States) 
F6 Radka Kahlefeldt AUS (Australia) 
F8 Rebecca Clarke NZL (New Zealand) 
F9 Kate Gillespie-Jones AUS (Australia) 
F10 Fiona Moriarty IRL (Ireland) 
F11 Ai Ueda JPN (Japan) 
F12 Cassandra Heaslip AUS (Australia) 
F13 Chino Iwabuchi JPN (Japan) 
F14 Danyella Eberle AUS (Australia) 
F15 Giorgia Priarone ITA (Italy) 
F16 Katie Remond AUS (Australia) 
F17 Meredith Hill AUS (Australia) 
F18 Olivia Dietzel USA (United States)